Job seekers pay the price for errors on background checks
Criminal background checks of prospective employees often contain errors, mismatch people or disclose convictions that have been sealed or expunged, according to a new report by the National Consumer Law Center.
According the Society for Human Resource Managers, 93 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks for some potential applicants and 73 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks for all potential applicants.
The report notes that one man was allegedly denied a job after a prospective employer conducted a background check that returned a 1987 rape conviction. However, the man, Samuel M. Jackson, was only 4 years old in 1987. The conviction that the background check turned up was for a man named Samuel L. Jackson, who was incarcerated at the time the check was conducted.
Whether background checks should be used for employment screening is a legitimate topic for public debate, argue the authors. However, there is little debate that if these records are to be used, they must be accurate, so as to not unfairly limit the employment possibilities of Americans struggling to support themselves and their families.
According to the report, lawyers and community organizations that work with consumers with faulty background reports state that they repeatedly see background reports that:
- Mismatch the subject of the report with another person.
- Reveal sealed or expunged information.
- Omit information about how the case was disposed or resolved.
- Contain misleading information.
- Mischaracterize the seriousness of the offenses reported.
The authors note that, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), background-checking agencies are required to maintain procedures to ensure the accuracy of information they report about the consumer. However, the FCRA, as currently interpreted and enforced, fails to adequately protect consumers when it comes to employment screening.
Based on the issues identified in the report, the authors provide three sets of recommendations. They urge the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to draft regulations to ensure that background checks are accurate and to require background-checking companies to register with the bureau so that consumers have a more robust opportunity to correct false or misleading information. They also urge the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the many background-check companies that employers use to ensure that they are not violating the FCRA. Furthermore, they urge states to ensure that companies using public records in compiling background information remove sealed and expunged data.
– Alec Arellano
Article posted on May 2, 2012